The month of November marks the American Holiday of Thanksgiving. A holiday that, in theory, is about thanking God for His many blessings. In reality very little thankfulness is expressed amidst the family dinners, football games and Christmas shopping. Perhaps there is a prayer during the family dinner, but those who do this typically pray before a meal anyway. Is there any dedicated effort to be thankful? Do we take extra time to meditate on the blessings of God. I mean we devote a whole day (if not weekend) to the holiday and rarely spend any extra time being thankful. We are a nation that has forgotten to be thankful.
I want to challenge YOU to 30 days of thanksgiving – not thirty days of turkey and dressing – but 30 days of dedicated time and effort to be thankful to God. Make thanksgiving a part of your daily prayer and devotional life. I can hear someone say right now, :I don’t have that much to be thankful for.” When pressed people stammer out thanks for their families, for salvation, their health or their prosperity. These are all good, but true thanksgiving causes us to go beyond the superficial to meditate on who God is, what He has done, what He is doing and what He has promised to do in the future. Thanksgiving that focuses only on what He has done (for us in the recent past) is shallow.
In the Old Testament book of Leviticus God lined out 5 particular types of sacrifices. One of those 5 was the sacrifice of Thanksgiving (Leviticus 7). There are several things we need to understand about the Sacrifice of Thanksgiving.
In Leviticus 22:29 we are told, “And when you offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord, offer it of your own free will. On the same day it shall be eaten; you shall leave none of it until morning: I am the Lord.”
While the other sacrifices were prescribed offerings, the Sacrifice of Thanksgiving was a voluntary offering. Thankfulness can never be forced. You may tell a child to say thank you, but you can not make him thankful! He may half-heartedly or even begrudgingly comply with the request, but his heart is not in it. Such thanks is rarely satisfying. How much more powerful when someone is genuinely grateful for a kindness done to them.
This is precisely the power of the Thanks offering. It is a person that stops and sets the busyness of life aside for a period of time and contemplates the many blessings of God. A person who purposes to be grateful and thankful blesses the heart of God an no doubt positions themselves for more and greater blessings inthe future.
The next thing we need to understand is that sometimes Thanksgiving can be a SACRIFICE. It is easy to rejoice and praise God when the stuff is happening. When life is good or prayers get answered. The testimonies and hallelujahs flow like water. This is good and normal. We are told to declare the praises of God in the congregation and tell of His deeds from generation to generation. However it is much harder to give thanks when life is not good and the prayers are not being answered (yet!). It is during these times that thanksgiving takes on the true nature of a sacrifice.
The very concept of sacrifice indicates a cost to the one doing the sacrifice. For instance, in OT times a prime animal was to offered, usually a male. This animal had significant monetary value. To “sacrifice it to the Lord” meant the person offering it was giving that value to the Lord.
Today we don’t bring our goats to church (thank goodness), but the concept of sacrifice is just as real. What would it cost you to give thanks to God is the midst of trial? Could it be we would have to sacrifice our pride? Our agenda? Our concept of how things ought to be and the way God ought to work? Perhaps it is our disappointment or anger or frustration over the circumstances that need to be sacrificed. Purposed, thoughtful Thanksgiving is a spiritual discipline that will transform your life. You can not sacrifice any of those things mentioned above without seeing spiritual growth in your life.
The last thing we should note about the Sacrifice of Thanksgiving is that it was a type of sacrifice that came back to the offerer. While the most of the offerings (burnt offering and sin offering) was given totally to God with no profit to priest or offerer, the majority of the Thanksgiving Offering cam back to the one making the sacrifice. The priest performing the sacrifice got the premium cut of meat – the shoulder – for his own use. The rest of the good meat went back to the person making the offering. That meat was to be eaten the same day and not left over until the next day. (This reminds us of the Passover Lamb, for those of you who want a little extra study).
The symbolism here is that this offering had immediate benefits for the offerer. There is a powerful illustration of this principle in the New Testament. In the NT we find the account of Jesus cleansing 10 lepers. He told them to go show themselves to the priest to validate their cleansing. They all turned and walked away, except one Samaritan who returned to give Jesus thanks. Jesus ignores the man and marvels that only 1 returned to give thanks. He then turns to the man and declares, Go your way your faith has made you whole.
It is easy to read past this exchange. You need to understand that a person could be cleansed of leprosy – that is declared not contagious and capable of re-entering society, but no one was cured of leprosy, as it could return at any time. The scars of leprosy would remain and the damage done to the body would not be repaired. The stigma of being a leper would never really go away. When the 10 lepers ask to be clean they were not asking for total healing, they simply wanted the leprosy to go into remission – a fact verified by the priests.
The man that returned to give thanks was made whole. That is his skin returned to normal. Every scar was gone. Every trace of the disease was removed from his body. There was no indication he had ever been a leper and in fact was never going to be a leper again. This was the wholeness Jesus gave his in response to His faith exercised through the voluntary and purposed acts of Thanksgiving. I call it The Wholeness of Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving transforms our life. It takes us to the wholeness of God’s blessing. Sometimes we get what we ask for, when God wants to give us more. In the case of the Samaritan leper his Thanksgiving opened the door for more blessings.
And our thanksgiving will open the door for more blessing in our lives as well.
“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15
I want to challenge you to spend the next 30 days offering the Sacrifice of Thanksgiving. Purpose to spend time contemplating God, His goodness, His promises and His plan for the future. Purpose to praise and see if your life does not change int he next month.